A couple quick things about fly tying vises. First, a word about a common malapropism: this is a fly tying vise, not a fly tying vice. One can have a fly tying vice, but personally I don’t find it to be all that addicting.
Second, a word about economics: You can spend any amount in the world on a vise and still save money provided (1) your flies are fair substitutes for what you buy in a store and (2) you go through enough flies.
This vise costs $415, which seems like a whole lot of money to pay for a fancy forked stick that holds your hook. But–and I say this having worn out one of its less-expensive competitors in less than ten years–I think it’s worth it.
The Dyna-King Barracuda series has a cam-operated set of jaws, which are made of extremely hard stainless steel. Over several years of use, my former vise’s jaws developed wear lines on the edges. That model had a flat-mating jaw surface, and I learned that applying enough pressure to a small enough hook with that design can actually shoot the hook out as a ballistic. (I spent a lazy afternoon in college trying to nail my roommate with a #22 midge hook).
A serious vise for serious flies.
The Barracuda has textured jaws and a slot for larger hooks. Its cam operation is ridiculously smooth, and I’m a fan of the design of its various knobs and adjustment points. There’s no plastic here to dry out and break with age, just solid metal workmanship. The hook set point can be adjusted up and down for rotary tying, and the vise is large enough to get your hands comfortably around. It’s just a better working layout than anything else I’ve used.
Now back to the price comparisons. This vise is large and heavy enough to help me tie #5/0 striper flies which average $7 apiece in my local fly shop. Between hook and materials, I’ve worked out that I have less than $2 in each fly. I typically lose or wear out between thirty and fifty flies a season. Accounting for my cost per fly, that means by tying these at home I’m saving between $150 and $200 a year versus purchased flies. The $415 debit of this vise thus comes back out of the red in less than three typical seasons.
Why should you not buy this vise? If you’re not tying more than a couple dozen trout flies a year, this is overkill. Get a Barracuda Jr. or a similar “travel” (meaning budget) oriented model. But if you tie a lot of flies–especially if you’re considering tying commercially–absolutely get a high end, full sized bench vise. This is the Milwaukee Tools drill set of vises: expensive upfront, but rugged, durable, dependable, and comfortable over many, many years of use.